You Don’t Have to Give Up Your Friends to Join a Moms’ Group

I recently read an article titled something like, Why You Shouldn’t Join a Moms’ Group. It was all about why new moms should just keep the friends they already have without making new friends. That old friends are way better and that it’s important to have friends without kids.

bag-gypsofilia-seeds-1716655_960_720On one level, I do agree with this author. When I had Bea, my friendships didn’t simply end. My friends without kids came over and showered my new baby with toys and clothes and food. They held her and cooed and reminded me that life was still normal, just a new normal. But then they went back to work and I stayed home with this new human, watching The Wonder Years on Netflix and wondering how I would fill our days.

When she was about six weeks old, I ventured to our neighborhood library for Book Babies and my life changed. I was invited to a Mothers of Preschoolers group at a nearby church and started going. Now, in addition to my pre-kid friends (who mostly have kids of their own now) I also have this group of women who have held my hands on this journey of motherhood.

My moms’ group stood by me during those fresh newborn days, though sleep training and milestones. Though toddlerhood and adding a sibling and potty training. My moms’ group talked about all those mothering things, yes. But we also talked about how we advocate as moms, how we remember social justice as we engage with our preschoolers. My new mom friends went with me to a conference on Race and Reconciliation and pushed my thinking of how to was the  engage with those radical ideas.

My moms’ group filled a void in my days that my friends without kids simply couldn’t. They held my babies and cooed and reminded me that life was still normal, just a new normal. I still get together with my friends without kids. I cannot imagine life without them. They push and shape my thinking. They love my kids with time and energy my mom friends just don’t have.

What made me sad about the article was that the author made it sound like an either/or choice. I understand that polarization sells, but you don’t have to give up your friends without kids in order to join a moms group – if that is a requirement, I’d encourage you to look into a new moms’ group. But that’s certainly not the norm.

Mother’s Day is this weekend and I know it can be a time of heartache for many women. The road to motherhood can be filled with trauma and tragedy and unmet expectations. It can be a stark reminder of a life wished for but not fulfilled. It can remind us of broken relationships with our own moms.

I still love celebrating Mother’s Day. I love remembering my own journey as a mother and I love taking time to remember those who have helped me on this journey. From my own mom and grandmothers to aunts and friends to whom was the friend-without-kids for so long. From my friends in my moms group to my friends without kids now.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is thank you. Thank you to my friends without kids who so graciously show up to my messy home and engage with my girls. Who offer perspectives and experiences that I often envy because of your freedom. Thank you to my friends who are ahead of me on this journey. Who offer hope and wisdom and a sense of humor to these little years. Thank you to my moms group friends who are right here with me in the trenches. Who commiserate and reminisce and laugh at our sweet and insane days. Thank you to my friends who started out as single girlfriends and who have grown into motherhood with me. For the patience and flexibility of the changing nature of our relationship.

Mothers Day is as complex a holiday as motherhood itself. I am thankful for the women in my life who have held me up through these first years of my own mothering journey.

How do you support the moms in your life? Did you ever join a moms group when you were a new mom?

In the Middle of the Tired Thirties

The Tired Thirties. This phrase, first coined by Sloan Wilson in Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, was used to describe that period for businessmen when they tried to balance family life with the long hours and demands of working their way up the corporate ladder. It has since been taken over by young mothers after Madeleine L’Engle used the term to describe her own experience in raising small children.

img_3103We’re certainly right in the middle of the tired thirties. The girls are at a demanding stage. Even if they can play independently, that only goes so far. And the routine itself can get monotonous: breakfast, get ready, school/playdate/errands/activity, lunch, naptime/quiet rest, late afternoon destruction of house, dinnertime, bedtime, repeat.

And yet, I can’t bring myself to use the tired thirties as an excuse. I am tired but when I take a look at what is most life-giving in this phase, it is the very thing that makes me most tired.

I suppose that’s the way it goes. What makes us most happy, what gives us the most joy, is what we give our time and energy to. Whether it’s children, a job, a calling, these things energize and fill. And they also can be consuming and draining.

There’s the balance – that happy medium. In many ways, it’s harder to draw the same boundaries around my children than I can about volunteering or work. I can’t just be done with mothering.

So I’m getting more creative in ways I can be less tired. Sometimes this means spending more time with the girls, since they do thrive on that routine. Sometimes it means taking time for myself. Mostly it means constantly changing my expectations and what works because what works yesterday most likely won’t work tomorrow.

And I’m learning that the reason these tired thirties are so tiring is probably the best reason to be tired.

How do you balance the tiring with the life-giving? Are they easy to separate or are they intertwined?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is Middle.

One Small Change

At the beginning of the year, I signed Bea up for Guppy swim lessons. Geared to 3-5 year olds, the goal by the end is to bob under water, float for 3 seconds without support, and feel confident in the water. I started her in January with lofty goals – we had enough time to repeat a level here or there but by summertime, she’d be in her second round of Minnow, perfecting her strokes and ready for this summer.

IMG_9618Last week was the last day of our third round of Guppy. Bea was so emotionally exhausted that she fell asleep in the bathtub after class. (Perhaps the most disconcerting experience I’ve had as a parent so far…)

My new goal for this summer? To regain a love of the pool and swimming. I don’t think it was really lost – we just spent a week in Moab where Bea used her noodle to kick all over the pool – but I want to refocus my own expectations. She’s three. We will always have adults around to watch her. She is water safe enough that I’m watchful but not worried. We’ll play this summer and we’ll keep trying next year.

I feel like if I have learned nothing else from motherhood, holding my expectations loosely is a recurring theme. My ideals and expectations are still high. I still strive to be as intentional as possible with our decisions. But, I’m learning that the specifics are often not how I originally envisioned.

The journey is ever-changing, ever-shifting and I’m finding that the scenery I hadn’t expected is often more beautiful. Or at least makes for a better story when perspective is gained and situations become funnier with retelling.

It’s not an easy small change that I’m learning to make. In fact, it goes against my view of an ordered, “happy” life. But, it’s a small change that makes me a better wife, a better mom, and a happier person all around.

And while small changes are often more attainable than lofty goals, they are also harder to stay consistent with. Sometimes small changes are easily reverted back because they are small and seemingly insignificant. I guess that’s the misnomer of small, easy changes. They are small and most likely easier than a major life-shift, but they still take intention, discipline and a willingness to work toward the big picture.

So even though my small change is simply having fun in the pool this summer, I hope I catch glimpses of something bigger – that I see life and parenting as less linear and more looping, circular, spiraling, spinning, and twirling. I hope that instead of viewing this as one step forward, two steps back I view it more as a dance.

We may not be able to easily see the lines clearly but the end product is something remarkable.

What’s one small change you would like to make this summer? How do you see life – in a line or like a dance?

Linked up with Alexandra Kuykendall as she asks us to consider the power of the small as we learn to love our actual lives. Head over to her place for more stories!

Dear Mother, You Are Human

We had the honor of hosting a baby shower the day before Mother’s Day. Part of the shower was writing advice or letters to the parents-to-be and their little girl. Before writing mine, I flipped through a few – Take time for each other; Accept babysitting; Remember 2am doesn’t last forever; It’s ok to be tired. I added mine with the caveat that we’ve only been on this journey a short time. My advice should be taken with a giant grain of salt.

IMG_0840After everyone left, with Elle asleep in the carrier, I laid us down on the couch and read a bit from The Mother Letters, a compilation of advice and wisdom, collected by Seth & Amber Haines. Inspired, I thought I’d add my letter.

Dear Mother,

I am writing this, baby crawling over the keyboard, smiling and talking. Ratatouille playing  while our three year old sleeps next to me. She tells me she doesn’t need to nap anymore but somehow, in the car, snuggled on the couch, it seems she still needs afternoon rest.

Before this point, I would have forced the nap – and some days, I still do. But, as a mom, something I’m learning is that some battles aren’t worth fighting. Some things are so important and others it’s ok to go with the flow. And the thing about motherhood? Each day is different. Yesterday’s go with the flow is today’s important non-negotiable.

I’m learning, too that though I have thirty years on my girls, that doesn’t mean I know best. They know themselves so well. When Bea asked and asked to share a room with Elle, we kept saying later, when you’re older. But one day, we realized Why not try? So we did. It was no magic bullet but bedtime and sleep have been better. And they both love it. Why not listen?

When we’ve gone through hard times and reached out to our communities, people give us so much amazing advice. And I’m learning to take with adaptations. Advice is how we connect. And some works amazingly and some parts work well and others just don’t work for us. And that’s ok. We listen, we learn, and then we follow our instincts.

I guess my point to you mother-friend, is that we are human, raising humans. As much as we search for a guide book, as much as we think the older generations can answer our questions, each experience, each family, each kid is so different. So, we listen, we learn, we learn to follow our instincts. And that is exactly what our kids need most. For us to be fully human and allow them to be fully human, too.

My guess is that you are an incredible mother. That your good moments far outweigh the bad ones, no mater how unbalanced life may feel.

On this Mother’s Day, I raise a glass of champagne to being a fully human mother.

This post was inspired by The Mother Letters. Head over to Amber Haines’  to read more letters of motherhood.

 

Staying Hydrated

When I lived in Nepal, clean drinking water was not easily accessible. Fortunately, in Kathmandu, there were options. Most of the members of my team bought disposable water bottles throughout our three month stay. I don’t remember who thought of it, but for Christmas my parents gave me an REI model backpacking pump. I would fill the sink in my bathroom each day and pump water into Nalgene bottles. I would then fill smaller bottles to take on the road. It became part of my daily morning ritual, and after a while I didn’t think too much about the added time in the morning.

When I returned home, it took a couple weeks to get over the novelty of simply turning on the tap for a glass of water. I had assumed the wonder would wear of more quickly, but I did pause and wonder each time I so easily accessed water.

232323232fp5437->nu=32-;>3-5>7;8>WSNRCG=38<94-<4<732-nu0mrjThe summer of Bea’s first birthday, we introduced her to an important Colorado accessory: The water bottle. She adored her “big girl” water bottles and one of her first phrases was “Stay hydrated!” Especially living at a higher elevation, drinking enough water throughout the day is a necessity. Even the phrase, stay hydrated! shows our privilege. We can drink water for exercise, to stay healthy, if we have an itch in our throats. Our pets have access to clean, filtered drinking water. We even pour water down the drain for a fresh glass. Water is consumed without thought.

I think most of us in wealthy countries with access to regulated drinking water in our own homes realize that privilege. We see the effects of water-bourne illness each year during Christmas campaigns to sponsor children. Many of us have participated in well building fundraisers. Sometimes, I wonder, Another fundraiser?! How many wells need to be built?

The answer? Many more! According to water.org, 840,000 people die each year from a water related disease. Every minute, a child dies from a water related disease. 1 in 9 people lack access to safe drinking water. The numbers continue…. The answer? We still need to help build wells, to help give others access to the water we take for granted.

11830667_10205790011041948_900574549_nA few weeks ago, The Mom Quilt, a collection of essays written by women about motherhood was launched. Its goal is to raise $40,000 by Thanksgiving to build a well for the mothers living at Mercy House Kenya, a home for teen moms. Currently, water is trucked in from miles away, making the moms and staff at Mercy House dependent on outside sources for their daily water needs. A well on the property would eliminate the time, expense, and stress of waiting for water delivery.

To help alleviate this stress and to assist in freeing up this expense so that Mercy House can focus its money on other necessary resources, Paula Rollo, Becky Mansfield, and Jodi Durr decided to compile a collection of essays to raise money for this cause. (My essay is Gracefully Messy Motherhood.)

Each ebook is $9.99, though you can choose to donate more at checkout. A PDF copy will be emailed to you and you can choose to read it directly on your computer or, if you have a Kindle, can convert it to your e-reader. After the $40,000 is raised, there are thoughts to sell it as a “regular” book, but for now, we want as many dollars to go to the women at Mercy House. By selling it in a PDF format, 100% of the proceeds go to building this well.

So, will you consider partnering with us to help Mercy House? The gift of accessible water is invaluable.

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Review: The Mother and Child Project + Giveaway

Mother’s Day was yesterday so, of course, my own journey as a mother is at the forefront of my thoughts. I look at my pregnancy and am amazed at how easy it has been. I chose when I wanted to start my family and when I wanted to add to it. I chose a doctor with whom I connected and felt comfortable. I have a husband who has come to every single doctor’s appointment – no matter how routine. I have parents who watch Bea and support Frank and I as parents. I have never doubted that this pregnancy would be healthy, that my baby would receive proper care, and that I would live through the labor, delivery, and recovery surrounding the birth.

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My experience is a far cry from many women’s across the globe. For many, the choice between a home birth and a hospital birth is not a question of how the birthing experience should look, but of practical access to life-saving resources. The Mother & Child Project is a series of essays addressing maternal and child health. While many factors play into the wellbeing of mothers around the world, recurrent themes included access to contraceptives, pre- and antenatal doctor’s visits, and education.

The book is comprised of essays written by doctors, politicians, activists, and entertainers who have taken an interest in global maternal care. I appreciated the range of views and writing styles. Some authors sited statistics medical evidence while others told stories of their own experiences and interactions with mothers facing life-threatening pregnancies due to lack of resources. The variety of voices and experiences gave the book scope that a text or narrative may have missed.

One of the most shocking statistics sited over and over is that a woman dies every two minutes in birth-related complications. Not having access to a hospital; Having babies too close in age; Not enough education in post-natal sexual activity and recovery all contribute to fatal complications for women in rural areas and developing countries. Something as simple as a $5.00 taxi fare to a hospital could prevent many of these deaths. Things that are choices for women with access to good healthcare are life-threatening risks for women without it.

What was most eye-opening for me, living in a comfortable country with access to good health care and choices as a woman, is that our own ideas of contraception and women’s health care have a huge impact on health policies in other countries. Many essays were aimed at reminding the church that contraceptives are not a sin, but a life-saving medical advancement. It’s a bit puzzling to think that our own politics around women’s health could so influence the life and death of women across the world, but it made me stop and think about how my own politics affect not just my own life but those of women I have never met and whose circumstances are vastly different from my own.

The book doesn’t just focus on pregnancy and health care surrounding it. Chapters on child brides, sex trafficking and prostitution, and the role of educating women as a way to combat terrorism were also key points. As an educated, privileged woman raising educated, privileged girls, it was a reminder that women’s health and education are what will change this world.

This is an important book, especially for churches or those involved in ministry. It gives concrete ways the church can help the most vulnerable of our world. If we truly believe in Jesus’ message of helping the least of these, supporting maternal and child healthcare is a logical place to begin.

What is your experience with global maternal health? Have you ever traveled to another part of the world to see these issues first-hand?

GIVEAWAY! I am giving away my copy of The Mother & Child Project. To enter, leave a comment about what you wonder most about maternal health care.  I’ll randomly select a winner on Friday, May 15, 2015. (United States addresses only.)

I review for BookLook Bloggers
I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Raising Strong Girls

In response to our news of another little girl, a friend recently said, “Your purpose in life is to raise strong women.” Frank and I have taken this statement as a sort of commission – a guiding principle in our parenting choices. As we raise Bea and dream about this next little girl, our hope is that we foster confidence, strength, opinions, and courage. We want our girls to be women who change this world for the better, who think critically, and who question what they are taught.

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the Race, Reconciliation & Immigration conference. It was a hope-filled time focused on what we can be doing to combat injustice and work toward reconciliation. As John Perkins said,

Drinking coffee together won’t solve the problem – it takes justice out of the equation.

Surrounding myself with strong women
Surrounding myself with strong women

One of the best parts of the conference for me was going with some moms from my MOPS group. It is so encouraging knowing women who care about justice and who are in different places on their journey towards it. I am learning so much from them and their life experiences. One woman is an initiator – she is full of ideas and practical ways of doing justice. We were talking about what we as moms could do and she suggested playdates. This common act can bring about connections and experiences that – while it doesn’t feel like being on the frontline of protests or prison reform – is a doable way for moms to stretch outside comfort zones and work toward bridging community gaps.

What I loved about this idea is that it is something I can do. My first inclination toward new ideas or information is to read more about it, to follow authors and bloggers and tweeters who are on the frontline, to get frustrated, but to ultimately not really know what to do next. I do know that I can take Bea to a park and play with other kids in neighborhoods that need justice and reconciliation. It may seem like a tiny step, but it’s something I can comfortably do with my child who doesn’t have the same fears and prejudices many adults do.

I have another friend who works toward justice through her Family Service Club. Kellie wanted to foster a practical spirit of giving in her kids, so she is actively looking for ways to engage them in their communities. I love that she wants to take the childhood lesson of sharing and caring for others into the broader world of her community.

From these women, I am learning that working toward justice doesn’t have to be grand. Especially in this stage of small acts and raising small people, starting with simple is best. We need big world-changing ideas, but we also need small community outreaches and playdates. I need to remember what Perkins said,

If you do justice anywhere, people will hear about it everywhere.

Frank and I were talking about other practical ways we can raise strong, compassionate women. We’ve talked about modeling our own pursuit toward justice. Ultimately, what we do as a family will carry far more weight than any words we say to our girls. What do we want our family story to say? How do we make these beliefs our family norm?

I know I won’t stop reading and learning about ways to fight injustice, but I also know I need to surround myself with strong, proactive, and justice-minded women. Women who teach me how to put my knowledge into action. Women who are ahead of me on this journey and who can teach me sensitive ways of working toward justice. Women I want my daughters to be like when they grow up.

How do you work toward justice? Any practical ideas for including children in this pursuit?

Village

Last week, while at the bookstore looking for Christmas gifts, Bea had her first public temper tantrum. She had been in rare form since we arrived: Running through the aisles, shrieking, shouting “Hi!” at every shopper, laughing hysterically. Pre-kid, I always assumed I’d just leave a store if my child wasn’t behaving properly. Since that idealistic thought, I now will not forfeit the time and effort it took to get us bundled up and out the door.

It took about one thousand times longer to pick out two cookbooks than if I had been alone. We finally headed to the check-out line, where we faced a gamut of small, cheap, irresistible trinkets. Bea picked up a tween friends game, a TARDIS replica, and a box of Godiva chocolates. As the line moved forward, I would pry a treasure from her hand and she would soon find a new one. As we progressed, she grew frustrated with my confiscations and threw herself on the floor with an ear-splitting shriek.

At home, when this happens, I ignore the behavior and we’re soon back to normal. I decided to try this method in our very public setting and quickly apologized to those around me. The woman in front of us smiled and said, “Never apologize! We’ve all been there.” We laughed about this special season of parenting and, within 30 seconds, Bea was back to her sweet self.

As we drove home, I reflected on the phrase, “It takes a village.” It’s true that we surround ourselves with communities who help us raise Bea. But, it’s different in the global community of strangers. The grace and encouragement this older, wiser mom showed me was exactly what I needed to boost my confidence in my parenting choices. I know we’ll meet a variety of critics and supporters in future outings, and I hope I can remember those words – to not apologize; to remember others have done this before me; and to be confident in my parenting, no matter how messy it is in the moment.

Has a stranger ever shown you grace and encouragement?